Who: Toronto Raptors (31-25) at Cleveland Cavaliers (22-35)
When: 7:00 ET
Where: Quicken Loans Arena -- Cleveland, Ohio
How can I watch? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
The Cavaliers have lost a couple games after a nice stretch and it isn't going to get easier any time soon. After getting lucky and having relatively good health for the first few months of the season, the team has been hit with a few injuries of unknown seriousness to seriously important players. Whether you wanted the Cavaliers to trade Varejao or not, the numbers indicate that the team has been average with him on the court and a trainwreck with him off it. Whatever you think of Dion Waiters progress, you can't deny that his ball handling and creating is sorely missed with him out. And whatever you think of C.J. Miles propensity to shoot, you can't deny that the Cavs miss his shooting.
So what about the fact that the Cavaliers were supposed to have depth this year? I liked the Jarrett Jack deal (I feel like I should need to attend anonymous meetings for revelations like that one) because I thought it was a clear signal the Cavaliers were serious about winning, and I thought it was solid insurance for injuries to Waiters and Kyrie Irving. That ... has not worked out. Jack hasn't been particularly good at really anything, and feels like he is actively hurting the team quite a bit. Earl Clark is gone, Sergey Karasev can't get on the floor, and the Cavaliers are truly hurting on the wing and in the backcourt. Fun!
It's sort of perverse, really. The Cavaliers finally have a set up with Tyler Zeller and Spencer Hawes where the drive and kick offense of Irving and Waiters can really be effective in setting up perimeter shooters and ... Matthew Dellavedova can't hit a three, Alonzo Gee and Luol Deng aren't effective from there, and Irving is once again only left with one actual shooting option - Hawes or Zeller. If he kicks it out to say, Jarrett Jack, it is almost a given that the shot will be passed up, usually either for a long two point attempt, or to penetrate too deep where he can't finish and is forced to throw a 95 mile per hour pass two feet above Tristan Thompson's head from six feet away.
Anyway, that's what I have been seeing a lot of the last couple games. The Cavaliers are still defending a bit better, which is good. This isn't uniformly the case, the defensive intensity against the Raptors and Wizards both felt alright for the most part. So it feels like a personnel issue at the moment.
The Raptors are trying to get to seven games over .500 for the first time in six years. I hope they don't get it, but that's pretty cool. It's nice to see bad teams improve and young players develop. They will be an interesting team to watch this summer. Terrence Ross, Demar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas are likely to be around for awhile, though DeRozan could always be moved. Kyle Lowry has been awesome and will want to get paid this summer. But that's not a bad place to start, and this is a team that will have a bunch of cap space. They will get valuable playoff experience this summer.
Is there a star on the team? Lowry is probably knocking on the door, but people had the same concerns with the Indiana Pacers a couple years ago. It will be interesting to see these young guys develop and see what Masai Ujiri is able to do.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction: Kyrie somehow gets back on track, Cavs win 96-91.